Patrick Nealon took a couple pages out of the Brooks Koepka playbook Monday and won the Buffalo District Golf Association Mid-Amateur championship.
After winning the U.S. Open Sunday, Koepka talked about how he focused on the moment during the final round, never worrying about any shot he had just mishit or where he stood in the tournament.
“I took one shot at a time after watching Brooks Koepka’s interview yesterday,” Nealon said. “I was like, 'I’m not going to care about anything else. I’m just going to play golf and let everything else take care of itself,' and it did.”
The result was the first district title for the 38-year-old Hamburg resident and Brierwood Country Club member.
Nealon shot even-par 72 at Gowanda Country Club to tie for first in the 25-and-over event with former New York State Amateur champion Jeff Wolniewicz. Then Nealon won on the second playoff hole, making bogey on the par-5 No. 2 to Wolniewicz’s double-bogey.
“Jeff is a good buddy of mine,” Nealon said. “It’s tough playing your buddy, but it’s good to beat a great player like Jeff.”
Nealon shared another characteristic with golf’s latest major champion: long driving. He’s not in the Koepka class of bombers, obviously, but he was long by Buffalo District standards. His drive on the first playoff hole went 332 (with no wind), leaving him just 29 yards from the pin, from where he made par.
“I was probably a little pumped up on that one,” Nealon said. “I’ve been driving it well. I got a new driver, a Taylor Made M1. I’m not the longest, but I’m long enough.”
Nealon was born in Buffalo, grew up in Florida and played golf one year for Jacksonville, from where he got a master’s degree. He married a woman from Western New York and has lived in this area six years, working as a field manager for the software company SAP Fieldglass Inc.
Nealon qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship in Milwaukee in 2008. He won the Brierwood club title four straight years through 2014. He has been close in the BDGA Mid-Am event a bunch, including a sixth-place finish last year and a tie for third in 2015.
“It’s one I’ve been trying to win for awhile,” the plus-1 handicapper said. “Today it was all mental, just thinking properly.”
Wolniewicz, a 31-year-old financial adviser, did well to shoot even par over the 6,507-yard course. He hit only four fairways.
“I was working for it,” Wolniewicz said. “I didn’t have my best day but I was proud of the way I battled out there. I really held it together. At the end of the day I was happy with my score.”
Wolniewicz, a West Seneca native and former Binghamton star, won the state amateur in 2008 and was runner-up in 2006. He won the Buffalo District title in 2006.
He plays almost no individual events these days outside of the state amateur. He’s pointing toward that one this July, because it’s at Long Island’s Bethpage Black, the former U.S. Open venue.
“I’m really excited about it at Bethpage,” Wolniewicz said. “I feel like that’s a course where if I play well I can have a little bit more of a chance than some of the other ones.”
Tying for third at 2-over 74 were Crag Burn’s Billy Hanes and Bob Rosen of the Country Club of Buffalo. Fifth was CCB’s Dan Irwin at 75.
Hanes, 31, has been the BDGA player of the year each of the past two years. He’s East Aurora club champ and former two-time Crag Burn club champ.
Rosen, 56, won the BDGA Mid-Am last year. He’s a four-time BDGA seniors champ, and Gowanda is the site of his BDGA Individual championship, which came in 1993.